Potato wringing was a tough job in the Berkowitz home. While other households may wrestle or play tug of war to test strength, our crucible was getting every last bit of moisture out of shredded potatoes to make the crispiest latkes possible.
The potatoes are placed in a clean dish towel and then the children get first crack at twisting the towel as water pours into the sink. Then some of the burlier men get roped in, causing a few more streams of moisture to leave the spuds. Lastly my grandmother opens the now shrunken towel-wrapped package, shakes her head a little, and squeezes a few last drops out.
As declarer, we’d love to get every last drop out of each deal, but as long as we scoop up the vast majority of what’s available, we’ll still make a pretty decent meal.
There’s a reason we count winners when talking about declarer play at notrump. If we count our surefire tricks, we’ll be better able to see where we can get more tricks from.
For example: AKx opposite Qx is three tricks. Those tricks are already, mentally, in our bank. We don’t have to do any work in this suit to get those tricks. Unless our opponents can win a lot of tricks in some other suit, there’s no rush to take them.
KQx opposite Jx, on the other hand, is a suit that needs some work. We have no quick tricks here. If we play the suit and the ace is taken, we’ll have two tricks. That’s good. The only problem is that if we play the suit and take our two tricks, we may set up tricks for our opponents.
How does this affect a full deal?
We wind up in 3NT with the below cards.
Let’s say we get the lead of the 4. Annoying that the opponents always manage to find your weakest suit. You choose to hold up once and then win. Should you play diamonds or clubs?
You should play clubs. Count your sure tricks: one spade, three hearts, two diamonds, and one club: seven tricks. You can generate three extra tricks in clubs (if Kx or Kxx is onside), whereas you can only generate two extra tricks in diamonds because we already counted two diamond tricks when we began. This is the process of getting those extra big drips of tricks rather than wringing out at the end.
Since both of these finesses are basically like flipping a coin, you should take the one that is the same risk and a higher reward. But is there an even better way to play it?
Grandma would combine every chance: start by playing the ace and king of diamonds to see if the Qx shows up. Yes, I know you’ve been taught 8 ever, 9 never. It’s usually right to finesse when you have eight cards missing the queen, but here we can’t risk losing that finesse. You will go down one extra if the queen doesn’t show up and the club finesse fails, but you’ve increased the odds of making your contract from a coin flip to something in the 60-70 percent range. Not bad!